“What is Google Analytics | How to Explain Google Analytics” written by Mike Marko.
Whether you are a first time user, or have used it a few times, Google Analytics can be overwhelming. There are a ton of graphs and reports, menu options, and settings, that you may (or may not) want to know about.
Now imagine this… you have a client for website work or marketing… They may have no knowledge of websites, never mind Google Analytics.
How do you explain what is Google Analytics to them?
It may not be an easy task.
That’s why today I want to talk about how to explain Google Analytics to someone with little to no web experience.
How to Explain Google Analytics
Before we can really dive into Google Analytics, I think it is prudent to go over some review about how to setup Google Analytics.
Setting Up Google Analytics
Ok, let’s start at the beginning… when you first create an account with Google Analytics you often label it with your company name. Then inside separate properties for each website that you own and you’d like to track.
Each website is then assigned its own Property ID (in the form of UA-XXXXX-YY). Google Analytics then uses this property to track and organize your data. Once things are setup, your website sends information to Google Analytics where it is collected and presented to you.
How Does Google Analytics Get Its Data?
So how do you get the data to Google Analytics?
When you create the website property, Google Analytics generates some Java Script for you that needs to be plugged into each page of your website. There are several ways that can be accomplished: plugins for popular sites like WordPress and the Google Tag Manager that makes it easier to add Google Analytics to your site, or you can put the java code into the header of every website page.
Once things are setup correctly, Google will immediately start collecting data. This data is attribuited to the Google Analytics Property ID.
The type of data that Google Analytics sees and stores is how which pages are visited and for how long. It does not capture mouse movement.
Challenges of Google Analytics
There is no guarantee of the accuracy of the data.
Google Analytics also takes advantage of the ability to store and makes use of first-party cookies on the person’s device. First-party cookies are small pieces of data stores on the visitor’s computer. This data is used to help remember if they have been to your site before. These cookies allow Google Analytics to determine new vs returning users. Anything that prevents cookies from working will affect the accuracy of the data collected.
There are also tools to help block advertisers and website tracking tools like Google Analytics. There are many reasons why someone may want to block this type of data from being collected.
Types of Google Analytics Reports
There are four main categories of reports in Google Analytics.
The Audience reports tell you about the users that accessed your website. They can tell you information about their arrival to the website, including information like:
- Whether this is a returning visitor
- Type of device used
- Their geographic location
While there are other demographic information, it is based on Google’s best estimates on gender, age, interests, etc.
The Acquisition Report tells how the visitor arrived to your website. This is generally determined by looking at the previous page the visitor was on before visiting your website page. Visitors are classified into the following categories:
- Organic (found by search)
- Social media
- Referral (link from other site)
- Paid search (eg. PPC, or Pay-per-click)
The Behavior report reveals what the visitor did on your website. This will provide information such as:
- What pages are most popular
- How long visitors spend on pages
This last report is used to tell Google what information is most important to you. You can designate what pages or actions are important to you, and then the report will tell you how often this action takes place. For instance you can track ecommerce purchases and other similar actions.
This is configured to your specific website.
What Google Analytics Reports Should You Care About
When you are looking at your Google Analytics, you need to know what is relevant to you and why.
First of all… don’t sweat the small stuff. You can quickly get wrapped around the axil trying to focus on little details that mean nothing.
Instead, focus on relative changes… if traffic goes up one month then use the analytics to find out why. Was the growth from a few specific pages? Was it more on mobile devices or desktop? If traffic drops, you the analytics to also find out why.
Also look at what specific types of content are getting most of you traffic.
Now looking at data you have to take in external factors… like holidays, summer vacations, special events, etc. All of these things can be reasons why there is a difference from one month to the next.
This information is all things that should be considered to help you know how to act to improve site traffic (and conversion).
What Are the Common Google Analytics Metrics
There are a few more common Google Analytics metrics that you should make sure you are familiar with.
Now here is an important point: users does NOT tell us the number of people visiting your website. Instead, it is the number of unique devices that access your website. This is because this metric is cookie based. And each set of cookies on a device counts as a user.
This means that this number is higher than the actual number of visitors. For example, I use a desktop, two laptops, and my iPhone. So if I visited the same website on all three devices I would be counted as four users.
Google Analytics defines a session as one “trip” to your website. When a user visits your site, and looks at a bunch of pages, then leaves, this “trip” or “visit” counts as one session.
Now if a visitor doesn’t do anything on a site for more than 30 minutes, then the session is also considered over.
If that user then comes after leaving, or the visitor becomes active again after 30 minutes of inactivity, then a new session is considered started.
This is a great metrics to report on. If you see more sessions on your website than you know you have a great indication of site activity.
This metric shows you how many pages are viewed on your website.
Now keep in mind, this metric will count each time the visitor returns to the same page (like the homepage). That means if they go to the home page 10 times then the pageviews goes up by 10. So although it is an interest metric, it is not necessarily an indicator on how much value you are providing.
Only use this as a metric to see overall growth over time like month to month, or better yet year to year. If you want a more in-depth analysis then check out Unique Pageviews.
Avg. Session Duration
This is how long on average visitors are measured to be on your website. Relatively straight forward as long as you remember that this is measured time on site.
This tells you the number of sessions on your site that only completed one action. Now the one action typically is people that have arrived on your website, and then left without doing anything else. Another term for this is “bounced”.
I use this metric to tell me how effective landing or sales pages are, or how good a blog post may be.
This number is typically higher than reported.
Keep in mind, if someone is on your website for 5 seconds it is counted as a bounce. If they are there for ten minutes reading a blog post and then leave… that is also counted as a bounce. As you can see, it can be a misleading metric.
Note that bounces are counted as zero time for the on site calculation. This means they really take your average down.
Final Thoughts on What is Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a powerful tool. It helps you better resent metrics of metrics on you website. When you know how to measure your Google Analytics, you are better equipped to improve your website in the long term..
Keep an eye on your Google Analytics and you can use the results to help optimize your website’s performance.
Thank you checking out my article, and happy blogging!
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